I have a lot of time for Max Hastings. I’ve always found his analysis to be lucid in a world of half-dreamed fact and his Finest Years: Churchill at War is glorious historical writing. He was even kind enough to share advice about me writing my own book on the great man, and his signed edition of my copy means a great deal to me.
But what’s going on in today’s Daily Mail? Hastings has taken a leave of his senses, condemning as “terrifying” the prospect of “Scots ruling England”.
We face the “bleak prospect”, he writes, “of five million Scots determining the fate of almost 60 million people in the rest of the UK.”
Now hold on a minute. When did population size ever have anything to do with running the UK? In 308 years there’s been only a handful of Scottish prime ministers and a fluctuating number occupying senior government posts. Yet every time the SNP made the independence argument as a means to stop Scotland being subsumed by its much larger neighbour, they were shot down as bigots and anti-English.
Why can Mr Hastings make the reverse argument with impunity? Why is Scotland 59 constituencies one day as part of the UK and a nation the next, ready to occupy England and create a cold water Cuba?
Hastings is giving in to little Englander reactionism that, if indulged north of Hadrian’s Wall by any Nationalist politician or member, would be called incendiary and just shy of racist in the south.
Can you imagine Nicola Sturgeon writing that ‘the English seem immune to rational argument about their circumstances and prospects.’
No. Not at all. Saying it of the Tories, Labour or the Lib Dems is political rhetoric and will more than likely happen. But Mr Hastings is attempting to give a psephological analysis that’s dripping with anti-Scottish feeling:
“Like the French and Greeks, the Scots seem immune to rational argument about their circumstances and prospects. They simply challenge the Westminster parties to declare who will pay most for their support.”
My problem is that the piece tells us that ‘Scot’ is now a byword for the SNP. For all the blistering viciousness of the constitutional debate, Hastings is playing right into the Nationalist’s pocket by making them out to be Scotland’s natural party of government. As a Scot, I can assure you this is not the case.
The Daily Mail and his voice, in particular, are widely regarded and widely read. Both should be called out for doing the old switcheroo when they call Scotland a nation one day and a set of constituencies the next whenever it suits their argument.